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Photographer | Ko Si-chi

  • Date:2020-08-13
Photographer | Ko Si-chi


Date of Birth: August 10, 1929

Died: June 5, 2020

Place of Birth: Tainan City

Did You Know...?

Steve McCurry (1950-), a photographer best known for his iconic piece "Afghan Girl," which graced the cover of National Geographic, has called Ko Si-chi one of the most iconic photographers of the 20th century.

Born in 1929, Ko Si-chi joined a chemical company after graduating from high school. After the Second World War, he chose to continue working at the company. Ko started his journey into the world of photography when the director of the company's factory departing Taiwan gave him a Welta folding camera.

In 1959, he went to Japan to study at the Tokyo College of Photography, really starting down the path to professional photography. During this period, Ko also began reading literary masterpieces from around the world, listening to more classical music, and fostering a love for art and creative work.

Ko held his first solo photography exhibition in Kaohsiung in 1962 and caught the eye of art critic Koo Hsien-Liang. In 1963, Koo guided the budding photographer back to Taiwan. During Ko's time back in Taiwan, he also coincidentally preserved a lot of Taiwanese scenes in photos. From a not yet been encroached upon by tourist restaurants Moon World, unique landscape of eroding hilly lands in southern Taiwan, and a not yet surrounded by warning tape Queen's Head of the geopark Yehliu Promontory, to a pre-Chichi Earthquake Longshan Temple at Lukang, Ko's lens has been a critical recorder of Taiwan. Using high-contrast negatives and light photographic developer, he created a style of photography uniquely his own. In 1967, Ko headed for New York, working as a photography assistant to William Silano and being part of shoots for internationally known magazines like Harper's Bazaar and Essence. In just ten short years, he opened his own studio.

Working among all that commerce and fame, Ko felt he was gradually losing the soul of his work, and so in 1979, he left his promising business, bought a second-hand car in Amsterdam, and went driving through Europe and North Africa. During that time, he developed a simple, stylish approach to capturing the images in his mind, creating internationally known works like "Presence of Venus," "Golden Sea," and "Olay! Antonio." His pieces from this period caused a stir when exhibited in Taiwan, having a profound and lasting impact on modern Taiwanese photography.

Ko's pieces blur the lines between pure art and commercial photography, and his works have been widely collected by major art museums at home and abroad, among them, the famous French art publishing house Cercle D'art. In 2005, photography critic Hervé Le Goff compiled the book "Ko Si-chi," a special collection printed and distributed in English around the world, letting Taiwan's photographic light shine internationally. He also became the first photographer to put on an exhibition at the New York’s Hammer Gallery.

Nobel laureate in literature Gao Xingjian said that Ko's photography was like painting, while poet Xian Ji considered it poetry. Despite having reached a position as a heavyweight in the world of photography, Ko remained as passionate as ever about the art. "I will shoot till I stop breathing," Ko wrote on his studio's website.

On June 5, 2020, Ko Si-chi passed away at the age of 90.